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The Magic of The Esalen Institute

A Lifetime of Transformation Born in Just 5 Days!


Last year, a week prior to my Esalen workshop, I received a call from a woman in Colorado. She informed me that her daughter was in a “bad way” — suffering from depression and anxiety and not having tools to navigate challenging circumstances. The woman thought that my “Cultivating Meaning and Happiness through Mindfulness and Yoga” would greatly help but unfortunately it was sold out. The woman asked me if it was possible to figure out a way to get her daughter a place and I told her that I would call Esalen and inquire. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist — as well as a yoga and meditation teacher — so whenever people are sufficiently brave to utter those three magic words — I NEED HELP — I do whatever is in my power to help because everyone can use a leg up once in a while. People have been extraordinarily generous with me — like not amputating my mangled leg — and I am committed to paying that generosity forward.

A bed magically appeared and young Sarah flew in to northern California to partake in our amazing group, which included the world-class musician Chris Brown and his entourage of highly-talented entourageans. A year prior, I had heard Chris’s song “Superior” on the sentry’s iPod as I passed by the famed Esalen gatehouse once manned by Hunter Thompson; I wrote down the song info, contacted Chris and invited him to play as part of my workshop.  Here is the video of him playing “Superior” at Esalen in 2017:

“Cultivating Meaning and Happiness through Mindfulness and Yoga” is loosely based on my book “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening” wherein I make the claim that Authenticity is our best shot at happiness and break it down to Attachment, Atonement, Attunement, Presence and Congruence.

Attachment” means being aware of our primary attachment dynamics (secure, insecure, etc.). Do we trust that the world is a safe place or are we inherently suspicious of others?

Atonement” (or At Onement) means releasing our resentments about things we cannot change. As Lily Tomlin says, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope of having a better past.”

Attunement” means being able to connect with others and make them feel heard. As I write in my book, “Mirror neurons do not fire via text message” and “One hug equals one million Facebook likes.”

Presence” means having readily available tools like meditation and yoga that stop our minds from dragging us into the the no-longer existent past or the not-yet existent future.

Congruence” means having our outer worlds match our inner worlds. As André Gide wrote, “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.”

This is how the week breaks down:

So young Sarah joined our group, was a committed student, and as you can clearly see from the photo at the top of this page, downloaded in 5 days all of the valuable philosophical and psychological wisdom and practices that I gleaned from my 3 graduate degrees and 30 years of seeking.

CUT TO eleven months later when Sarah sends me this text message: “Ira, this is Sarah. I graduated from my yoga training over the weekend and am moving into apprenticeship. I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to you for being my teacher. For the experience I had at Esalen with you was the beginning of a journey that is transforming my life! Sending you so much love.”

I immediately called Sarah, congratulated her on completing her teaching training and then asked, “Well, you know that means — don’t you?”

“What does it mean?” she countered.

“It means that you have to come teach with me at Esalen!”

There was silence, then a guffaw as she processed what I told her. Then I added, “We have to show people that transformation is possible and this is a perfect example. Will you please come teach with me at Esalen?”

Sarah graciously accepted and on September 16th 2018 our motley crew from last year — Chris Brown, Don Henry, Ginevra Cappiello, Jeff Gall and me along with Sarah — will share another fun and enlightening week full of love, transformation and magic!

This is why I love Esalen! Come join us!

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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